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Not a single migrant wants to stay in Bosnia

July 20, 2018
topic:Refugees and Asylum
tags:#Bosnia Herzegovina, #migration, #refugees, #Balkan route
located:Bosnia and Herzegovina
by:Katarina Panić
Bosnia Herzegovina was not part of the Balkan route for migrants from the Middle East and North Africa in 2015 when European migration crisis started. Now, the new Balkan route included this country too.

It is estimated there are some 4,000 migrants at this moment in Bosnia, while some 800 of them entered the country in this year. However, not a single of them wants to stay here.

"During the interrogation, none of the migrants says Bosnia is their preferred destination. Every single of them says precisely which country or even town they want to reach“, Slobodan Ujić Bosnia's Service for Foreigners' Affairs director told local media.

The vast majority of them are from Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lybia, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, usually men, between 20 and 30 years old, and they desperately want to reach the most developed parts of Europe to become their new place for living, not Bosnia. That is why they don't seek asylum here at all, although there is a noticeable turning point among the EU members following the old Hungarian proposal to form the centres for registration outside the EU borders or even Europe as a whole – and put them in the north of Africa only.

"More than 90 percent of them are not refugees, but economic migrants with no ID. They destroy their temporary IDs as evidence of how they entered Bosnia in order to avoid readmission. Then they ask for international protection here so they have freedom of movement all over Bosnia and they misuse it afterwards “, Ujić said.

The migrants are coming in Bosnia usually from Serbia, crossing the border illegally by boating over Drina river, and from Montenegro. Then they try to reach Croatia and through it the rest of the European Union, again destroying the traces which could be followed and get them back step by step. Nevertheless, day by day it is harder to enter the EU and it seems it is going to be even harder. As Austria recently took over the presidency of the Council of the EU, it is expected the next six months its priorities will be combating migration.

Bosnia itself has no capacities to deal with the issue so the least it can do is strengthening border controls towards eastern neighbours, which is first of emergency measures recently established by Bosnia's Council of Ministers. The second one is to take every possible step to avoid a humanitarian crisis – both rather challenging in extremely complicated structure – a weak state government, strong two entities and one district, ten cantons and municipality levels as well. They accuse each other of not doing enough to solve the wide range of problems related to migration. Moreover, 23 years after the bloody war the country is still ethnically, religiously and politically divided.

There are large groups of the migrants in the town of Mostar and in capital Sarajevo and small groups all over the country. Some 3,000 migrants are placed in Bosnia's north-west Una-Sana Canton since it is the area closest to Croatia.

„I tried to cross the border but they (Croatia's border police) caught me and brought me back to Velika Kladuša. Once I even reached Slovenia, but I was caught there too. I should try harder“, Ali from Pakistan told local media.

The federal government decided these days to concede Agrokomerc food factory to host the migrants in Una-Sana Canton. Besides the warehouses in Velika Kladuša, police will segregate 50 migrants which are considered as potentially dangerous for safety and put them in former barracks Ušivak near Sarajevo. Local authorities believe conflicts between migrants and local people are inevitable.   

Still, there are a lot of people in camps, in ruined buildings, in tents, and under the open sky. Only a few of them are able to pay accommodation in hostels or to rent the apartments.

“I can't remember last time I slept over in bed. I forgot what kind of feeling that was”, Ali said.

The headlines in local media often create an enemy image of migrants. News related to migrants about rape, burglary or scaring away tourists turned out to be fake ones. There are also politicians who try to present them as terrorists. There are authorities who present the migrants negatively in order to hide their own weakness to face this situation. In the same time, professionally-oriented media representatives emphasize it is dangerous to create an enemy image for migrants and warn there is a lot of hate speech in public already.

That is why Bosnia's Association of Journalists supported by UNHCR organise workshops on how to report about migrants in a fair, professional and human way and how to avoid stereotypes.

“There is no migrants crisis in Bosnia, but a human right's crisis. We altogether have to find a way to make things easier for refugees and for migrants here”, reads the common conclusion of such a workshop which took place last Friday in Bihać, capital of Una-Sana Canton.

The human rights are at the top of the civil society organisations' agenda too. They have shared activities all over the country focused on basic needs. They use social networks to mark the points where people may bring food and clothes for migrants. The activists periodically collect those things and deliver them where is most necessary at a particular moment. Last Friday Aleksandar Žolja from Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Banja Luka shipped groceries, footwear, and clothing in Velika Kladuša.

“This is the third time that we’re doing this. Several organisations participated. Do you see this van? Even though I’m driving it for the very first time, I’m managing it well, don't you think so?”, Žolja told me when I was showing him where to find a Christian organisation in the town of Prijedor willing to help migrants. 

Article written by:
Katarina Panić
Katarina Panić
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Embed from Getty Images
"During the interrogation, none of the migrants says Bosnia is their preferred destination. Every single of them says precisely which country or even town they want to reach“
Embed from Getty Images
The migrants desperately want the most developed parts of Europe to become their new place for living.
Embed from Getty Images
"More than 90 percent of them are not refugees, but economic migrants with no ID."
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